Thursday, April 26, 2007

You Are What You Write, or You Write What You Are?

The "alternative" newspaper the LA Weekly has a mildly disturbing story about an episode at the Los Angeles Times. A reporter of Armenian extraction had written an article about whether or not Congress will soon officially recognize the mass slaughter of Armenians by Ottoman Turks during World War I as genocide. The Turkish government has been waging a campaign all over the world for years to prevent the use of the word “genocide” to describe these events, which they characterize as the unfortunate but unavoidable slaughter of war.

An editor of the Times apparently felt that the reporter had an intrinsic conflict of interest precisely because of his ethnicity. And so he killed the story and assigned it to a non-Armenian reporter. In the modern multicultural climate – in which your ethnic ancestry is completely determinative of what you believe, what you eat, how you learn, which holiday celebrations are going to offend you – this is a lamentable but inevitable result. Taken to its logical conclusion, the multicultural belief system in the journalistic context supposes that no one writing a story about any matter that impinges or affects in any disproportionate way any ethnoreligious group in the world should be allowed to publish it. Thomas Friedman can never write about Israel or the Arab world, Christopher Hitchens can never write about Islamist attacks on Britain, indeed no one of any ethnicity may write about affirmative action, an activity that affects all ethnic groups differently.

In posts like this, I like to link to a wonderful little story about a white-as-cotton Anglican vicar who, writing under a Muslim-sounding pseudonym, wrote a book about the tough lot of young Muslim women heroically navigating their way among the irresponsible white boys of contemporary Britain. The book was widely praised for its authenticity, and it was only when the author met with an agent who wanted to represent him that his secret was unmasked. The Reverend was a vivid and compelling Asian writer, until we actually got a look at him.

It is a basic tenet of modern multiculturalism that that which unites us is less important than that which divides us – dominated by the practically genetically encoded cultural framework that completely determines our role in life. Working from such a mental template, it is unavoidable that journalism must place unusual importance on the ethnoreligious composition of its workforce, and it is only a very short step from there to the idea that stories must be assigned on the basis of these criteria, and from there to a newspaper with no news in it. I have previously criticized the very notion of journalistic objectivity, arguing instead for journalists not to be shy about their biases, so that readers may better evaluate their stories. But the diversity fetish that increasingly afflicts modern journalism – blacks and Asians and whites in women and men are all looking at a different funhouse-mirror distortion of an unknowable reality, and so we have to have a newsroom that “looks like America” – is itself inconsistent with the pursuit of objectivity. You can have diversity as a means to more thorough coverage, or you can have objective coverage, but you can’t have both. What a mess.



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